Monthly Archives: April 2014

Tasty Garden, Alhambra

Tasty Garden
288 W. Valley Blvd. Suite 110
Alhambra, CA 91801

From what I know, my great grandfather’s family is from Hainan, a province and rather large island off the southern coast of China. It is the namesake of Hainanese Chicken Rice, a very tasty and popular dish, especially in Malaysia and Singapore. In fact, some call Hainanese Chicken Rice the national dish of Singapore.

Tasty Garden 2

It’s a dish that I also claim as comfort food for me, regardless of my ancestry, and it’s really no surprise I ordered it a couple weeks ago when I was hungry for lunch in the San Gabriel Valley before flying back to Albuquerque. I decided to eat it at the Alhambra branch of the Tasty Garden chain of restaurants that serve Cantonese comfort food in a slightly more upscale setting (similar to Noodle Village in last week’s post). The trouble I had was deciding what side dish I wanted to accompany the Hainanese Chicken Rice. After mulling it over for a couple minutes, I placed an order of Chinese broccoli stir fried with dried salty fish, a dish that my brother and I love to order at Golden City in San Diego.

The food came in about 15 minutes and I immediately dug in, considering it was 2 in the afternoon. The first few slices of chicken I had were delicious. The meat was tender and the skin was juicy and fatty, without overpowering. The ginger and scallion oil give a nice kick and the picked vegetables were nice to cut some of the oil in the chicken and sauce. The rice was decently flavorful as well, with enough chicken stock and oil to give it a wonderful aroma. The last pieces of chicken weren’t as great, but didn’t detract much from the overall dish. The Chinese broccoli came next and like thee Hainanese chicken rice, the first bites were also pretty good in that the texture was just al dante enough with the pungent aroma of the dried fish and garlic. Unfortunately, as the Chinese broccoli wore on, some of the pieces were not done as well, either by having a little too much dried fish to accompany it or the Chinese broccoli they had used seemed just slightly past ripe. It was not the biggest deal, but certainly not the best either.

Tasty Garden 1

The service, however, was excellent – far from my typical experience at even fancier Chinese restaurants. Perhaps it was because the dining room wasn’t as packed to the gills, but the waiter was very generous in making sure my tea cup was refilled with tea and that my plate for bones was emptied and replaced. I was very pleased, especially given the often rude service I got at Tasty Garden’s Monterey Park location. The decor, as I have stated, was modern, nice, and clean too, which is definitely not something I am used to very much.

All in all, this was the perfect meal to end my California trip (aside from, perhaps, an In-n-Out burger or order of carne asada fries). Hopefully I can take my brother and his fiance here as well, given that he recently mourned the loss of Maxim Cafe in Rowland Heights, where we dined many of times as teenagers and college students.

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Noodle Village, New York

Noodle Village
13 Mott St
New York, NY 10013

Last week I took a vacation to New York and DC and took the opportunity to both eat good food and reconnect to family and friends on the East Coast. Two of my cousins live in or around New York City so I decided to gather the three of us for some delicious Chinese food in Chinatown. While arguably there is better Chinese food in New York if you went to Flushing, I find that there are still some great gems in Manhattan’s Chinatown.

Noodle Village 1

One of these places in Noodle Village, which is my go to place for comfort Cantonese cooking. This is a far cry from meatloaf and macaroni and cheese, but to me this food reminds me of my cultural heritage and upbringing as a son of immigrants from Hong Kong. Of course, it’s great to eat comfort food with family so lunch was extra special.

Noodle Village 3

I ended up ordering for all of us and we got the following 6 dishes that ended up satisfying us perfectly:

  • Wonton noodle soup – perfect wontons with a good amount on shrimp and noodles were cooked just right too. The broth had a nice, clean seafood taste.
  • Congee with preserved duck eggs and shredded pork – The congee was a little bland, but the consistency was good. It could have used a little more salt and pepper.
  • Soup Dumplings with pork and crab – Very big dumplings with a lot of delicious soup. However, the wrappers were flawed, breaking easily at the bottom and having a very thick top that was a mouthful to chew on.
  • Beef brisket lo mein – This is Hong Kong style lo mein (as opposed to American style) where thin wonton noodles and stir fried beef brisket with a side of soup. The beef was tender and very flavorful, but the daikon could have been sliced smaller.
  • Gailan with oyster sauce – As usually, blanched perfectly with a nice chew and just enough oyster sauce
  • Claypot rice with Chinese sausage – The last item of the day was filled with excellent slices of chinese sausage and grilled pork belly. The crisy rice was very nice as well, though there was perhaps too much rice.

Noodle Village 2

All in all, it was a great meal and great time with my cousins and a girlfriend of one of my cousins. The food was a comforting reminder of my childhood and the quality is just as great, or even better, that many comfort Cantonese places in California. A bonus was their service which was pleasant and consistent, helping to fill tea very regularly, as well as their decor, which is more upscale than nearly all comfort Cantonese restaurants I have ever eaten in.

 

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Koi Palace, Daly City

Koi Palace
365 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015

Koi Palace has been said by some to be the best Chinese restaurant in the Bay Area, if not the entire United States. Given its high reputation, I have been meaning to dine here for a very, very long time but the location has been simply inconvenient for me. Many of my Bay Area family members live on the East Bay and nearly all of my friends are either in the city (San Francisco) or Oakland. Given that it’s not very accessible by mass transportation.

However, I rented a car when I was in town two weeks ago and got a couple of friends to get together, catch up, and eat Dim Sum, a fairly good measuring stick of the quality of a Cantonese seafood restaurant. We met up and waited about 45 minutes for a table. For me that was short compared to waits at some LA dim sum joints, however I learned that this is fairly long for the Bay Area. Once we were seated we ordered a pot of chrysanthemum and pu’erh tea.

Koi Palace 1

Like most modern, upscale Cantonese seafood restaurants, we ticked things off a colorful menu and handed it to a server. Unbeknownst to all of our group, we discovered that we ordered 12 items off the menu, not counting the silken tofu dessert we would have later. Even for a group of 4 people, those 12 items would be a lot. These items included:

  • Blanched Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (excellently blanched, though could have used more oyster sauce)
  • Siu Mai (probably the best I had in my life. Very juicy and delicate, arguably better than Sea Harbour)
  • Rice Noodles wrapped with shrimp (decent, though I’m generally not a huge fan of rice noodle rolls)
  • Egg custard tarts (good, though I wish the crust was a little flakier)
  • Daikon cakes (very nicely fried)
  • Coffee baked ribs (great flavor, but I felt like there was too much meat)
  • Buns filled with egg custard (decent, though not any better than a good Chinese bakery in Chinatown)
  • Yangzhou Style Fried Rice (the restaurant is apparently known for this. It was well prepared, though a friend gave it only 8.5 out of 10)
  • Har gow (wrappers were good and not too thick and sticky)
  • Silken Tofu Dessert (grainier than usual, though the syrup was good)

Koi Palace 2

As for the service, it was better than most Dim Sum restaurants, especially in LA, in that they took time to refill waters and replenish the tea pot with hot water.

Overall the food was pretty good, but all in all not the best Dim Sum I have ever had. At this moment, that still goes to Sea Harbour in Rosemead (though I am planning to go to Vancouver and Hong Kong this year). Given that the bill came to just a little over $25 with tax and tip, it wasn’t the best of bargains either. I was notified later that Koi Palace really shines at dinner service, so that will be something to look forward to at my next trip to the Bay Area. However, in the end, yum cha is about drinking tea, eat food, and having a good time conversing with friends. On the last note, it was definitely nice to catch up with friends in the Bay.

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